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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan - DVD Review

Some critics list 2005's Crash as one of the most important films in recent history to explore racism, prejudice and the way Americans deal with cultural and racial differences. That was probably a fair and accurate assessment ... until Borat was unleashed onto the big screen.

To the uninitiated, Sacha Baron Cohen hit the world comedy scene as the star and creator of HBO's Da Ali G Show, in which his unique brand of humor and biting satire took shape through his character's wacky and often insulting interviews. The world hasn't been the same since. Especially now that another of his TV show characters Borat the naïve television reporter from Kazakhstan - has assaulted the big screen.

Cohen's Borat is a toothy-grinned, mustachioed imbecile so bumbling and ignorant he can't utter a single sentence without offending at least two nationalities and three religious affiliations. But his insults aren't of the hateful or mean-spirited variety. In fact, he doesn't even really deliver the insults himself as much as he does draw his interview subjects into the comfort of like-minded company. He knows what stupid things simple-minded bigots will say when given a friendly platform, and he's not afraid to put himself in dangerous (or humiliating) situations to get the comments on film. Taboo subject matter that shouldn't be joked about is offered up to the gods of humor and ridicule, stripping it of all power and significance.

The film is basically a series of outrageously funny, Jackass-like skits (without the pain and violence) threaded together by the thinnest of plots involving Borat Sagdiyev, and his obese and ineffectual producer, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), as they travel to the U.S. and A. to produce a documentary movie film. The antics begin almost immediately as Borat packs a live chicken in his suitcase and boards a horse-drawn Yugo bound for the nearest airport. Upon arrival in New York City, the chicken gets loose on a New York subway train while cameras roll capturing the reactions of frantic passengers. During his first night in America, he watches a Baywatch rerun and falls head over heels for Pah-MEH-la Anderson, and decides to travel to California and make the romantic liquid explosion on her stomach.

Speaking of Jackass, some of that film's best moments came when the jokesters played visual pranks on local passersby. Innocent bystanders are some of the harshest critics of physical humor and this is where Borat excels as well. It's hard to believe this wasn't scripted for a knowing audience but all claims and interviews point to the contrary. There's just something more challenging in playing to everyday people and Cohen is unquestionably the master. The film's satirical humor comes from Borat's international misunderstanding and his clueless, back-woods, politically incorrect questioning that tries the patience of even the most accommodating subjects. He takes on anti-Semitism, women's rights, homophobia and doesn't pass at taking a few jabs at Bush's war on terror by singing the Kazakhstani National Anthem to the tune of the U.S. National Anthem in front of an audience of extremely proud red-state rodeo fans. After initially cheering at Borat's assurance that he supports Bush's war of terror, it was comforting to see the audience eventually grow testy at the suggestion that Borat wants to join Americans in tasting the blood of every Iraqi citizen.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is uproariously funny despite its squirmy, hands-off subject matter. Cohen and company (Jay Roach and director Larry Charles) have constructed a comedic masterpiece that must be seen to appreciate. The big question going forward is whether this film has raised Cohen's familiarity to the point of ruining any future projects. Will the same humor be as effective when unleashed on a knowing audience? Probably not. But the good ones always find a way.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; making-of featurette; cast and crew information.

* Deleted Scenes - Censored Footages - (24:00) 8 scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Featurettes -
o Propaganda - - (17:00) - The global publicity tour with appearances by Borat on Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live and more

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging


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